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And God Created Jean-Louis Trintignant

Friday, April 12, 2013
8:40 p.m. Z
Costa-Gavras (France/Algeria, 1969)

Short on title but long on suspense, Z is both a gripping film and a political gesture. With its director Costa-Gavras in exile in France, composer Mikis Theodorakis under house arrest in Greece, and screenwriter Jorge Semprun no longer welcome in Spain, this fictional account of the Lambrakis Affair was not just the latest in political thrillers, but a film intended to expose fascist stirrings in the country that gave birth to democracy. Lambrakis, here played by Yves Montand as the minimally monikered “Z,” was a medical professor, legislator, and peacenik who was assassinated in 1963 by a shadow junta operating within the Greek government. Costa-Gavras’s taut retelling unfolds like a semidocumentary procedural as the investigating magistrate (Jean-Louis Trintignant, who received the Best Actor Award at Cannes) mistakenly takes his charge seriously and unearths a conspiracy to suppress what the chief of police calls “ideological mildew,” or the antiwar Left. Praised at the time of its release for its boldness, Z does have a disclaimer: “Any resemblance to actual persons or events is deliberate.”

—Steve Seid

• Written by Costa-Gavras, Jorge Semprun, based on the novel by Vassilis Vassilikos. Photographed by Raoul Coutard. With Yves Montand, Irene Papas, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Jacques Perrin. (125 mins, In French with English subtitles, Color, 35mm, From Rialto Pictures)